Houston A. Baker was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1943. He graduated from Howard University in 1965 and went on to earn his M.A. and later Ph.D. in English from the University of California at Los Angeles. He taught English at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He was also the university’s director of Afro-American Studies Program from 1974 to 1977.
Baker was a pioneer in defining Afro-American literature. He insisted that it was inseparable from Afro-American culture. Today he is a poet, editor, and critic. In 1971 he edited Black Culture in America, an anthropology in which he set new standards for inclusion based not only on the usual critical principles but also on ones “that are indigenous to black American literature” (Hawley). He also edited The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself, and Three American Literatures: Essays in Chicano, Native American, and Asian-American Literature for Teachers of “American” Literature. Together he and his wife, Charlotte Pierce-Baker, edited Renewal: A Volume of Black Poems.
Berea College awarded Houston A. Baker the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature. Upon hearing that he had been chosen for this degree, Baker wrote the following letter to John B. Stephenson:
"I was deeply honored by your letter of 11 February 1988. I have known Berea College’s sterling reputation and have been aware of its quite extraordinary work for many years. As a Kentuckian, I am the grandson of a man who always wanted to go to Berea College. I am the son of a woman who felt it necessary to take me and my brothers to Berea to see the campus and to witness its summer pageantry. Yes, I have known Berea College for a very long time and it is a signal pleasure and honor to be chosen for an honorary degree" (Baker).
List of Works
A Many-Colored Coat of Dreams: The Poetry of Countee Cullen
Black Culture in America
Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature
Long Black Song: Essays in Black American Literature and Culture;
Singers of Daybreak
Studies in Black American Literature
Reading Black: Essays in the Criticism of African, Caribbean, and Black American Literature
Renewal: A Volume of Black Poems.
The Journey Back: Issues in Black Literature and Criticism
The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself
Three American Literatures: Essays in Chicano, Native American, and Asian-American Literature for Teachers of “American” Literature.
Hawley, Mary. “[About] Dr. Huston A. Baker, JR.” 1988. Print.
Baker, Huston A., JR. “Letter to John B. Stephenson.” February 23, 1988. Print.
Berea College Vertical File, Special Collections and Archives